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Lead image

How to choose the best turntable

Get the right vinyl record player for your needs

I've hauled a heavy crate of records across the country from house to house for more than two decades. Why? Because I treasure the warmth and detail of the classic albums I've collected over the years. But I'm not just archiving — I find and purchase new favorite albums all the time.

Whether you’re new to the vinyl game, or an experienced collector in search of an upgrade, this article will give you the knowledge you need to make the right choice when buying a turntable.

the author at home playing records

What is a turntable?

Every turntable does two very important things. First, it provides a stable platform that spins records at a constant rate of speed. Second, it allows a needle to track through the record groove and “read” the recorded information. Beyond that, there’s a lot of variation in materials and construction that can make a difference in how it sounds.

What do you get when you spend more?

If you’re going to invest in records to get great analog sound, you should play them on something better than a trendy all-in-one record player bought at a clothing store. Build quality and materials make all the difference when choosing a turntable. This list points out key features that make one turntable sound better than another.

Good (typically under $400)

  • aluminum platter and tonearm
  • some plastic body parts
  • automatic operation
  • entry-level cartridge
  • built-in preamp

Better ($400-$800)

  • carbon fiber tonearm
  • steel or acrylic platter
  • manual operation
  • medium-quality cartridge
  • heavy plinth (base)

Best ($800 and above)

  • exotic, sometimes trademarked materials in platter, bearings, and other parts
  • high-end cartridge
  • advanced engineering of tonearm assembly, plinth, wiring, etc.
  • no built-in preamp

If you need some explanation of these parts and features, just keep reading!

Key parts of a turntable

exploded diagram of turntable

A. Platter — The record sits on top of this (hopefully with a good mat in place).

B. Spindle and bearing — ensures smooth, quiet platter rotation.

C. Motor and pulley — Only found in a belt-drive turntable, this provides the torque that turns the platter.

D. Tonearm — Made from strong, lightweight materials like aluminum or carbon fiber, it tracks record grooves with high accuracy.

E. Cartridge — The coil and magnets inside turn the kinetic energy from the record groove into electrical signals.

F. Plinth — Provides a stable, resonance-free base for the moving parts.

G. Feet — Absorb vibrations, so the turntable doesn't pick up skip-inducing rumble from speakers or movement in the room.

Important features

On casual examination, most turntables look pretty similar. Let's "peek under the hood" to pick out some key features you may want to look out for.

Turntable direct-drive assembly diagram

This image shows the intricate construction of a high-end direct drive motor used by Technics.

Belt drive vs. direct drive

This tells you how the motor is connected to the platter, and why that matters.

Direct-drive turntables offer extremely precise platter rotation, which reduces or eliminates "wow and flutter." They also get up to speed almost instantly, and the platter spins free of resistance when the motor is turned off. The latter qualities make them very popular with professional DJs.

On a belt-driven table, an elastic band connected to the motor turns the platter. Devotees of belt-drive believe this decoupling reduces motor noise, and may help bring out more nuance from a recording.

Both drive styles have big fans in the audiophile realm. It's really a matter of personal preference at the end of the day.

close-up on photo cartridge

A phono cartridge turns the kinetic energy from a record groove into electrical signals.


Most turntables come with a cartridge pre-mounted on the tonearm. The cartridge contains the stylus — which most of us casually refer to as a "needle" or "pickup" — that reads the record's grooves and produces sound. The provided cartridge is usually a good entry-level choice, but many music lovers prefer to upgrade to get even stronger performance.

Silver Phone Preamp

An external phono preamp boosts the tiny signal generated by your turntable so your main amplifier can turn it into audible output.

Phono preamp

The initial signal produced by the cartridge is very precise, but also very weak. That's why your turntable needs to feed into a phono preamplifier to get to a level that can make music come out of your speakers. The phono preamp can be built into the 'table, built into a receiver, built into a powered speaker, or housed in a separate component.

An outboard preamp does add a piece of gear to your cabinet, but if you're using a top-notch cartridge, this level of detailed control helps you get the most out of your investment. It will often give you the option to choose whether you want to use a moving magnet or moving coil cartridge.

To learn more, read our phono preamp buying guide.

Manual vs. automated

This feature lets you know how much you'll have to interact with your turntable as it begins and ends playing a record.

Manual: With the help of a manual lever, you physically lift the tonearm and place the needle in the record's lead groove and lift it off at the end of a side. An automated mechanism can introduce noise, so manual operation is standard for those who care more about sound quality than convenience.

Semi-automatic: You get things started by manually lowering the tonearm. When the record is done, the turntable returns the tonearm and shuts off the motor. You don’t have to worry about the stylus bumping around in the end of the groove while you're up to your elbows in a task.

Close up of turntable controls

This fully automatic turntable automatically puts the needle on the record, plays a side, then returns the tonearm to its rest and shuts off.

Fully automatic: With a fully automatic turntable, you push a button and walk away. The tonearm moves into position and gently drops the needle onto the leading edge of the record. When the last song is over, the tonearm lifts itself up, returns to its resting position, and shuts off the motor.

turntable output panel

This turntable has a built-in phono preamp and a USB output for connecting to a computer to digitize analog albums.

USB output

You buy a turntable because you value analog sound. But some 'tables have a feature that lets you create digital copies of your favorite albums so you can preserve them, and take the music with you when you leave the house. If that sounds good to you, look for a turntable with a USB output.

Important specs

Looking at pictures of a turntable won’t tell you much about how it performs relative to other models. Manufacturers use some esoteric-sounding specs to help you make comparisons, so let's figure out what each one means.

Signal-to-noise ratio: Measures how much background noise you can hear. A higher number is better here because you want a lot more music signal than noise. Look for something above 65dB.

Playback speeds: Most turntables give you 33-1/3 and 45 RPM capability. If you purchase a ‘table for spinning 78s, it can handle modern "microgroove" pressings, but not older vintage recordings. Make sure you get a specialized cartridge that’s equipped to handle the wider grooves of these increasingly rare records.

Wow and flutter: This spec tells you how accurately the turntable spins the platter. Too much deviation can cause an audible wavering effect. A lower number is better here, ideally below 0.25%.

Next steps

Once you've bought a turntable, you may get the itch to start tweaking it to make it sound even better. Check out our 

Pairing a turntable with speakers

The traditional — and still very popular — way of hearing sound from a record is to connect the preamp output to a receiver with phono input or a preprocessor/power amplifier combo, and listen through a pair of tower or bookshelf speakers. This kind of setup provides superior results, but it can be costly and take up a lot of space.

speaker on shelf with turntable

A powered stereo speaker with built-in phono stage like the Kanto SYD offers a space-saving option for record lovers.

As an apartment dweller myself, I've enjoyed pairing my Pro-Ject Debut Carbon with a pair of Klipsch Reference R-41PM powered stereo speakers. The speakers have the connections I need, and a built-in power supply, so I don't need to make room for any other components. Powered speaker manufacturers often build in a phono preamp as a nod to us vinyl lovers.

Some manufacturers are adding built-in wireless functionality for added flexibility. The popular Audio-Technica LP-60XBT (and others) feature convenient Bluetooth® output. Yamaha's TT-N503 turntable has MusicCast built in, which lets you put your turntable anywhere you like, and wirelessly broadcast music to compatible speakers throughout your entire home.

Next steps

Once you've got a nice setup, you'll probably start feeling an irresistible urge to start tweaking details to make it sound even better. Don't worry, this is very normal. Read 8 Tips for Getting Better Sound from your Turntable to get an idea where to start.

Need help?

You may want some help choosing a turntable and matching it to components like preamps, receivers, and speakers. One of our expert Advisors can talk to you about what gear you have, and what you might need to add. They're knowledgeable, friendly, and they love music as much as you do. Contact us today.

And don't hesitate to call us if you hit a snag during the install process. Free lifetime tech support is included with every Crutchfield purchase.

  • Lester from Redditch

    Posted on 5/27/2021

    Thanks for the information easy to understand plain English very impressed. Just purchased a old Technics SL 1500 that has gone for a full service and some new Cambridge audio speakers so was looking for a amp that will work well.

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 5/28/2021

    Lester - I'd recommend an integrated amp with decent power and a phono input. I like that you've already got some Cambridge in the system, because that's where I'm leaning for a recommendation. The AXA35 is a good budget option, but if you want to get more power and features, the Evo 150 can't be beat. Hope this helps!
  • Kevin white from New bedford ma

    Posted on 5/24/2021

    Im looking for a cartridge for my old record player, the player is a ( 1984- 1985 ) technics , Quartz, direct drive automatic turntable system SL- QD 22, The original needle broke off so I had to replace it with a RadioShack cartridge rx-1600 , would you happen to know the original cartridge that goes on this one or a One that is equal to the RadioShack one? I'm just looking for a replacement cartridge. Thank you for any help that you can give.

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 5/25/2021

    Kevin - I don't have any first-hand knowledge of this turntable, but I did a little research and it looks like it features a P-mount cartridge. Audio-Technica sells one called the AT81CP (which we do not carry) and they also sell an adapter that allows you to use 1/2-inch mount cartridges with a P-mount tonearm. Wish we had something on our site I could point you toward, but hopefully you can get what you need directly from A-T.
  • RT from Virginia Beach

    Posted on 12/9/2020

    I noticed you discontinued the TEAC TN-280BT turntable. Do you have another suggestion with a good price point. Bluetooth if possible. Thanks!

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 12/10/2020

    RT - The Sony PS-LX310BT has the features you like, and it's a top seller for that reason. It's temporarily out of stock, but we expect more on 12/21/20, so it might be a good idea to put in an order now so it will ship as soon as they arrive in the warehouse. Thanks for the question!
  • Vincenzo John Loffredo from League City

    Posted on 10/13/2020

    Hi Eric, Probably not the most popular question but i really want a record player with a cd player to play all of my fathers old records and CD's, with this I would like to get a nice speaker system to get that classic sound, I saw a lot for under the $200 range on Amazon, do you have any recommendations or advice in my search? would like to stay in that budget which I know may not help with my wants/needs.

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 10/14/2020

    Vincenzo - I'm afraid we don't carry any combo units like that, so I don't have any hands-on experience with them. If I had to guess, I'd say a system at that price point may not have great sound quality and may not last as long as you'd prefer, but I understand the necessity of buying on a budget. Good luck in your search, and please keep us in mind if you decide to go with separate components at some point.
  • Arnita Townsend from Flossmoor

    Posted on 10/12/2020

    Hello, I have an Old Pioneer Quartz-PLL Full-Automatic PL-930. If at all possible I would like to give this old machine another try. I need to replace the needle but don't know what needle I should replace it with and I don't know if it something universal I can use. The needle have the 2-screws on top and 4-prongs for connection. Don't know if I am wishfully thinking or if it's possible for me to give this baby a spin again. Your help is most appreciated!!!

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 10/12/2020

    Arnita - I'll admit I don't have any direct experience with that turntable, but it sounds like it should be compatible with the headshells we carry. If you want to experiment without investing too much, I'd try the Audio Technica VM520EB-H phono cartridge on headshell. Thanks for the question!
  • Scott Fallick from Saugatuck

    Posted on 9/18/2020

    As a vinyl fan I always adding knowledge about stereo equipment. Maybe some info for us that have pretty good equipment, but what we can do to make it better. Preamp? New cartridge? Etc.. thank you

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 9/21/2020

    Scott - I couldn't be happier that you asked this question today. I literally just finished this article: 8 Tips for Getting Better Sound from your Turntable. I hope it helps!
  • Anthony Ollmann from Los Angeles

    Posted on 8/31/2020

    hi! I have currently just purchased the klipsch heresy iv speakers. I am looking to upgrade my turntable. I currently have the project debut carbon with ortofon blue cartridge. I listen to a lot of Jazz. Any recommendations to pair with these speakers?

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 9/1/2020

    Hi, Anthony - Those are some serious speakers. Personally, I'd pair them with the best turntable we carry, the Mobile Fidelity UltraDeck +M, with the matching UltraPhono preamp, which will allow you to dial in the perfect sound. Give us a call, chat, or email if you want to get more in depth!
  • James Zotynia from Henryville, Pa 18332

    Posted on 7/15/2020

    I have a Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB, with a built in preamp, please correct if I'm wrong. I have hooked it up the ways they recommended and absolutely no punch. I have to turn up the volume quite a bit to listen. Can a Pro-Ject preamp also be used to increase the sound from the phono. Thanks James Zotynia

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 7/16/2020

    James - You certainly can turn the built-in preamp off and use a more effective outboard Pro-Ject model, but I'm concerned about the fact that you're not happy with the basic function of the one built into the Audio-Technica turntable. If you got that from us, it's worth checking in with tech support to find out if it's functioning properly and configured right before taking the next step. Hope that helps!
  • Linnéa from Rochester

    Posted on 7/5/2020

    I'm thinking of buying a turntable for my friend's birthday. We both love old Frank Sinatra songs, and we both write music, so I want it to be something that sounds good but not too expensive. I don't know anything about vinyls or turntables. Do you have any suggestions?

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 7/6/2020

    Linnea - Thanks for the question. The TEAC TN-280BT is my pick for a good budget player. It has a built-in phono preamp so you won't have to get a separate one, and I think the wood finish provides such a classic look, which I love. It's on sale right now, so it checks all of the boxes as far as I'm concerned. Hope you and your friend have a great time listening to records in the future!
  • Jorge from San Francisco

    Posted on 6/6/2020

    Belt turntables aren't better than direct drive ones. They are harder to make and that cogging which is the supposed weakness of direct drive doesn't exist in good ones like those of Technics . Plus direct drives are more stable and require less maintenance than belt driven ones.

  • James Huerta from San Antonio

    Posted on 4/16/2020

    Thanks for explaining all this it really helps I'm new to this think I'm going to get the Pro-Ject Carbon You guy's Rock

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 4/17/2020

    James - Happy to help. The Carbon has been my choice for everyday music listening and it has never done me wrong.
  • Leoven Filio from Abu Dhabi

    Posted on 4/9/2020

    I appreciate this much, very helpful. Thank you

  • Cyndi Fox from Denver

    Posted on 3/28/2020

    We cannot get our Audio-technical LP 60XBT to work; it turns on, needle goes to record but no sound. What are we missing??? It connects to our Bose Wave. Please help. Thanks, Cyndi

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 3/30/2020

    Cyndi - I'm afraid I don't have enough information to diagnose. If you purchased any of the equipment from us, I highly encourage you to call up and take advantage of our free lifetime tech support. Good luck!
  • Jim from Bellingham

    Posted on 12/30/2019

    And always best, as shown in the article, is putting your powered speakers inches away from your turntable on the Sam cabinet. SMH

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 12/31/2019

    Jim - Good eye. The demands of good photography sometimes mean fudging placement. We-a culpa!
  • Dave Berry

    Posted on 7/31/2019

    I have a old technics sl 1400 turntable any recommend for a new cartridge.

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 8/1/2019

    Hi, Dave. I'm not sure which cartridge you were using before, or what kind of performance you're looking for out of your new one, so I'd like to direct you to our phono cartridge guide, which should help you choose. If you want to look at specific models, one of our Advisors can help you choose exactly what you need.
  • Shawn from Pittsburgh

    Posted on 2/16/2019

    Hi Dave. I'm looking for a automatic turntable with the ability to play 78's ( with tone arm lift). What's my best option?

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 2/18/2019

    Hey, Shawn. Dave retired recently, but I learned from the master, so I'll take a swing at answering your question. For 78s, I like the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit SB. It has a really stable platter, speed box control, and Pro-Ject ships it with all of the pulleys and belts you need for playing 78s. If you visit that product page, you'll see Dave gave it a glowing write-up. Now, that one's not automatic, so if that's really important, I'd look at the Denon DP-400. Thanks for the question!
  • John Ryder from Indianapolis

    Posted on 8/28/2018

    USB with a turntable? You have just defeated the purpose of a turntable. ??

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 8/29/2018

    Generally speaking, I'd say that's true for most of us, John. On the other hand, I can see how some folks might want to be able to digitize physical media that are deteriorating, or at least have a portable digital copy of a treasured album. Thanks for the comment!
  • mike from Los angeles

    Posted on 6/29/2018

    Hi Dave, Is there a difference in quality of sound between the music heard from Direct TV or cable through your TV and sound system from a vinyl or CD?

  • John from Las Vegas

    Posted on 4/26/2018

    I have an Audio-Technica LP-120-USB turntable. So far I no reason to complain. I think it is a really solid product. I just caution that in its set-up make sure that the turntable is absolutely level. Poor audio-spatial imagery often can be traced back to the turntable being unlevel in even the most minor sense. Now, where's my newly remastered copy of Dark Side of the Moon.

  • John Henze from Portland

    Posted on 11/30/2017

    Good afternoon. Over the last couple of years, I have spent quite a lot of money with you guys upgrading my ancient stereo. Several new speakers and new receiver and actually two new AV receivers. One went to my son. And a new CD player. Lastly will be my turntable. I had a mint condition Dual 1229 that I bought new in 1972. I gave it to my son two years ago. He is loving it. I was given a 1980s' Denon DP-60L and it works wonderfully. I was really thinking of upgrading to a VPI Prime Scout. I wish you guys carried them, but sadly you don't. Am I just wasting my money?

  • David Epstein from Warwick

    Posted on 7/5/2017

    I'd like to see a review of the SOTA line.

  • Jeff from Torrance

    Posted on 6/26/2017

    I own 3 turntables. An entry level Sony that I cannot recommend. My first turntable getting back into vinyl. It's not a good turntable. I then went full stupid and bought a VPI Scout with an Ortofon 2M Black nude shibata stylus and cartridge, when all I needed was a rebuilt Technics I paid $300 for. A Technics SL-Q2 to be exact. I have a Music Fidelity phono amp that I highly recommend, and I will eventually purchase a Ortofon P&P 2M Black for the Technics turntable. I would like to inform those interested in turntables to buy in the $400 range new or buy an 80s turntable from eBay. I spent $2000 on the VPI and have never used it. I want to sell it. I love great audio, but for that cost of that VPI Scout you can buy nice phono amp and turntable. I was a kid in the 70s but has had a nice component stereo in the 80s before CDs came along. I have lots of old and new vinyl, including 200 plus impeccable 45s. Most of all, have fun with 'records' and have fun choosing a turntable right for you.

  • Vincent Chen from Antioch

    Posted on 5/29/2017

    Maintenance cannot be forgotten here. the Record must be clean to sound its best. VPI Cleaning system is the best I have ever seen, and heard. Records no matter what will never sound great as they can be until they are clean. Pure and simple. Along with all the Turntable necessities of course.

  • Brian from Phila

    Posted on 5/16/2017

    Denon DP 60,...Great "I mean beautiful shape" for sale

  • Chiris Farley from West Covina

    Posted on 4/16/2017

    I have two tables , One is a Linn LP12 the other is a Roksan Xerxes .I use moving coil cartridges on both. I run each of them into pre amps and amps from Naim Audio. And then into Linn Sara speakers and Naim speakers . I do have a CD player for things I record or cant get on Vinyl. But I hardly ever use it . I do use the CD player for transcribing music because its easier than lifting a needle off and on an LP. I would suggest that people research cartridges with care depending on the type of music you prefer most,,, There are differences.. Some are better for some types of music. If you go for a moving coil over moving magnet,, My choice.. make sure your preamp has the correct stage to handle it ..

  • Chiris Farley from West Covina

    Posted on 4/16/2017

    I have two tables , One is a Linn LP12 the other is a Roksan Xerxes .I use moving coil cartridges on both. I run each of them into pre amps and amps from Naim Audio. And then into Linn Sara speakers and Naim speakers . I do have a CD player for things I record or cant get on Vinyl. But I hardly ever use it . I do use the CD player for transcribing music because its easier than lifting a needle off and on an LP. I would suggest that people research cartridges with care depending on the type of music you prefer most,,, There are differences.. Some are better for some types of music. If you go for a moving coil over moving magnet,, My choice.. make sure your preamp has the correct stage to handle it ..

  • Jerry cruise from Bluefield, va 24605

    Posted on 4/13/2017

    Great article. I can a/ b any mobile fidelity vinyl against midi gold cd an Anyonyone cane hear that analog Blows digital away. Bang n Olufsen with crown power.

  • Jerry cruise from Bluefield, va 24605

    Posted on 4/13/2017

    Great article. I can a/ b any mobile fidelity vinyl against midi gold cd an Anyonyone cane hear that analog Blows digital away. Bang n Olufsen with crown power.

  • Sam Lopiccolo from Fraser

    Posted on 1/1/2017

    I have a 70s 212 Philips turntable in excellent condition thinking of getting rid of it and moving up to teac or Audio Technica what do you think

  • Brian Varney from Denver, Colorado

    Posted on 12/29/2016

    Just want to say you're article on turntables is superb! "Back in the day" I was a sound editor in the ABC television network, and had access to great professional equipment. I purchased my personal turntable, a United Audio (Germany), after extensive fun research and comparisons, and coupled it up with a Shure V-15 II cartridge. Many great decades of vinyl enjoyment have followed (I bought the Dual turntable in 1967). I still use it for my collection and pull its fine audio through our high-line Denon receiver, one of the last to offer phono inputs. In the last couple of years I've bought a Music Hall USB turntable to transcribe vinyl through my computers for fun and further transcription. Your wonderful article going over turntable specs really brought my turntable interests "home" as well, and I'm sure novices to this beautiful method of sound reproduction will learn and apply it's concepts. Thanks again! Oh, the first amplifier for my brand new Dual turntable in 1967? A Fisher TX-100 of course! The speakers (still in use today with 14 other surrounds and dual subs)? JBL naturally, in oiled walnut!

  • John from Oxford

    Posted on 11/22/2016

    Impressed that you spell 'table with an apostrophe throughout.

  • Kathy from Kettering

    Posted on 11/3/2016

    I have my late husband's stereo system and need a turntable. The receiver is a Yamaha Natural Sound RX-V480 (yes, it is old but works) and a pair of Klipsch speakers. Any suggestions? Thank you.

  • Chris from Ruskin, Fl

    Posted on 9/29/2016

    I bought a pro-Jett debut carbon from Crutchfield a couple of years ago and it has served me well. My concern is when to replace the stylus. Can the stylus be replaced on the Ortofon Red, or do I need to replace the entire cartridge? (In the old days, we could replace the stylus only). Does Crutchfield offer replacements?

  • Bob Atkinson from North Reading, MA

    Posted on 9/29/2016

    I have a Technics SL-L20(k) linear-tracking turntable that I bought in the 1980's when all of the major Japanese stereo equipment manufacturers (Sony, Panasonic & Pioneer) offered linear-tracking turntables for sale. Now they seem to have all disappeared. Does anyone still make linear-tracking turntables? If so, where can I find one? Why did they all go away? My turntable has a P-Mount cartridge, are replacements still available? Thanks for your help.

  • Todd King from Buda

    Posted on 9/29/2016

    Ahh yes that must be it, the "ritual of sliding the tonearm over the record" is so fascinating that it has led to the vinyl resurgence lately (lolol). That is sound logic from Crutchfield.. Or, maybe it's because the best analog still kicks the cr*p out of the best digital? Hmm, maybe.. Todd in Austin, TX USA

  • Aaron Solochek from San Francisco

    Posted on 9/29/2016

    I wanted to mention that for the hackers out there, the audio-technica AT120-USB has a lot of potential. Inside the are two circuit boards. One simply acts as a connection point to the tone arm wires, and the other is the integrated ADC and phono preamp. I removed the wires between the two boards, and removed the jumper resistor on the connection board which was tying the two negative signals from the cartridge together. I then added XLR jacks to the back of the TT to bring out the balanced signals directly from the cartridge to a pro-ject audio pro-ject box S external preamp. I made custom XLR to RCA cables (as short as possible!) to connect the TT to the preamp. The cartridge signals are all completely separate to the preamp, and the custom cables provide chassis ground via the cable shielding, broken out to a standard spade connector. I also upgraded the cartridge from the AT100 that it comes with to an AT440MLb (available for curiously less money at Frys electronics than anywhere else). I tested a wide variety of cabling to use both for the internal wiring and the external. The external wiring can be any decent microphone cable with a braided shield. For the internal wiring I found that cat 6 actually works the best. It has the lowest capacitance of the dozens of cables I tried. I now have about 80uF capacitance from the end of the tone arm to my preamp. The results are wonderful. Much more definition in the high end. For details and pics, reply and I'

  • Michael from Orlando

    Posted on 9/29/2016

    Just saw your photo of the guy playing a record. You may want to clue him in that it's usually a good idea to use the tonearm's counterweight, in order to balance the arm and set tracking force.

  • Samuel from Concord

    Posted on 7/11/2016

    CDs are lo-fi compared to good vinyl. The best fidelity is still obtained from reel to reel tape at 7 1/2 or 15 IPS and vinyl played on a good turntable with a high-end phono cartridge. High definition CDs come close, but still not as good.

  • Commenter image

    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/4/2016

    Hey, Kyle. I'm glad you found my article helpful. Just for the record (no pun intended!), I'm not certain there's an actual difference between a "record player" and a "turntable", although I suppose one might think of a record player as being cheap and cheerful, while a turntable is a more serious piece of audio kit. The distinction, I believe, is primarily a mental one.

    Anyway, I will assume you're in Australia. Allowing for the exchange rate, it looks like your budget for a turntable is in the $450 (USD) range. There are lots of really good ones in that neighborhood. I would recommend checking out the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC or Music Hall MMF-2.3. Either of these models are highly capable, but unless you already have one, you'll also need a phono preamp with them, so you may have to budget another $100-$200 for that. Best of luck in your search.

  • Kyle Raine from Brisbane

    Posted on 5/3/2016

    Hey Dave, Thank you so much for you're article it helped a lot! I have recently been thinking of getting into the world of vinyl but am not really sure where to start. I've heard a turntable is considerably better than a record player so I am going to buy a turntable. If I wanted to get a pretty decent turntable set (everything included) what price would I be looking at? I was aiming to spend at the most $600, but I'd be willing to pay more if it was worth it! Thanks again!

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    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/28/2016

    Hi, Dan. Welcome to the world of vinyl playback. As of this moment, I know of no turntables that feature HDMI output. As for front-loading turntables, I seem to recall some models from Pioneer, Sony, Sansui (and possibly others) back in the '70s and '80's, but nothing current. The fact that no one builds them anymore makes me wonder if they had reliability or performance issues. Anyway, give us a shout if you have any more questions, or need help picking one out.

  • Dan from Macon, GA

    Posted on 4/28/2016

    Hi Dave, I've never owned a turntable before, but I've recently gotten my hands on some vinyl and am on the hunt for my first player. Whatever I go with I'll be looking to integrate it into my home theater surround sound receiver, its one of the pioneer elite models. Just a few questions that I can't seem to find answers to. 1. Do they make a turntable with HDMI output? 2. Are there any front loading units, where all the moving parts are internal, sort of like a CD player? Thanks for your input.

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    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/18/2016

    Steve, all I can say is, it's complicated. Opinions vary greatly over USB sound quality. Much of what you get depends a great deal on the quality of the turntable itself (where the rubber meets the road, so to speak), as well as the quality of the phono preamp electronics, not to mention the analog-to-digital converters used. From a purist's standpoint (that's me!), I prefer to avoid the digital conversion process altogether, and go direct analog through a high-quality phono preamp into a receiver. Please give our advisors a call to discuss the possibilities in greater depth.

  • Steve from Garland

    Posted on 4/17/2016

    What's you opinion about connecting a turntable by USB as opposed to RCA cables? Is the sound from USB connection inferior? I have a Mac Mini computer, a Scarlett 2i2 interface, 2 - KRK Rokit5 speakers, and a Numark TTUSB turntable. The sound is good from this setup but I'm wanting a little bit higher end tt such as a Rega maybe. Now, if I get the Rega I don't think is has USB or a pre-amp so I would need to purchase a preamp and I suppose connect the turntable it to the Scarlett interface's line ins? Is this the best approach or is there a turntable that connects by USB that would be a better choice and has great sound? thanks

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    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 3/9/2016

    Brian, Even though Marantz does as good a job as anyone with their receivers' built-in phono preamps, you can almost certainly count on a noticeable bump in sound quality with a dedicated outboard model. Tubes are especially engaging when employed for phono preamp duty. In my opinion, this would be a highly worthwhile step up.

  • Brian from Massillon

    Posted on 3/8/2016

    I have a pro-ject debut carbon esprit sb dc hooked up to a marantz sr6009. I want to buy a tubed phono pre-amp but since the receiver I have already has phono inputs idk if it would make a difference in sound.

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    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 3/3/2016

    I'm certain you're not alone, Bruce. I believe a lot of folks are looking to resurrect their old turntables and wondering where the cost/benefit line should be drawn. My feelings are this: If you're sitting on a classic 'table like a Linn, Sota, VPI, Mission, high-end Thorens or Rega, etc., and everything seems to be functioning properly, it may well be worth your while to invest in a new belt and cartridge (yes, you'll almost certainly need both due to long-term deterioration of rubber or silicone elements, and don't forget a drop of good synthetic oil in the platter bearing for 'tables that can use it).

    On the other hand, if your 'table isn't functioning at all, or was of average or lesser quality to begin with (I mean no offense here, but spending $100-$200 dollars or more on a turntable that didn't cost that much to begin with just isn't a good investment), you would probably be better off buying a new turntable instead. You can often still find replacement parts at the manufacturers' websites, or online at turntable specialty shops.

  • Bruce Lodge from Tuolumne, CA

    Posted on 3/2/2016

    Dave, I have a huge vinyl collection acquired between the late 60's and the late 80's. As I transitioned to CD's I finally packed away my high end turntable in the mid 90's. It's been boxed and stored in the garage ever since. It seems I'm succumbing to nostalgia these days, finding myself anxious to breakout the old table and haul my record collection up to the living room and start enjoying the vinyl vibe once again. My questions... Is it reasonable to think the belt on the turntable has survived 20 years of inactivity? Should I expect some degree of degradation in the cartridge? Is it legit to think I could find a cartridge and a belt for a 30+ year old turntable? There used to be "stereo" shops in most every town where one could take a unit in for repair or buy replacement parts. Not so anymore, especially in small rural towns the likes of which I've lived in for some time. Your thoughts? Thanks, Bruce

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    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/10/2016

    Hi Dalia, In the sub-$500 turntable category I'm a big fan of the Pro-Ject Essential II and Debut Carbon (DC). These models dispense with bells and whistles that add to the cost, but not the performance.

  • Dalia from Austin

    Posted on 2/10/2016

    Dave, I have been reading different reviews and suggestions regarding turntables and external phono amps. This is by far the most helpful article I have come across! I was wondering if you could recommend a few affordable options for turntables without the built in phono amp. I have found a few external phono amp options that I can buy separately but still need to find the speakers/turn table.

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    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/5/2016

    Sandy, these are both good possibilities. For sheer sound quality, I think the Pro-Ject would be way ahead of the game. It comes with a decent cartridge, but is easily capable of supporting a better one (say, the Ortofon 2M Blue or even Bronze, for example). I sent your questions to our sales team for their advice. They'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.

  • Sandy Vera from Oklahoma City

    Posted on 2/4/2016

    Hi, I wanted to know your opinion about my two choices for my first record player. The 1st one is: Turntable: Pro-Ject Debut Carbon (DC), Phono Pre-Amp: Behringer PP400 and Speakers: Audioengine A2+, (Not sure about the speakers) I think I might need to change the cartridge as well but not sure which one will be the best option. The 2nd one: Turntable: Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Direct-Drive Professional Turntable, Integrated Amp (w/ phono stage): Marantz PM5004 Integrated Stereo Amplifier and not sure about the speakers here either. I woulld appreciate your help!

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    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/18/2016

    Emily, You never want more than one phono preamp active in the system at the same time (this really is a case where more is definitely not better). Since both Denon turntables that we sell have the ability to bypass (or switch off) their internal preamps, you could elect to use the phono input on your receiver, if you wish. Conversely, you could use the turntable's built-in preamp and an auxiliary line input on your receiver. One could potentially sound better than the other. In my experience, dedicated external phono preamps usually sound best. Denon's a good choice (with lots of great reviews), and especially nice if you're looking for an automatic turntable. Otherwise, I'm partial to the Pro-Ject Carbon DC for its sonic performance and versatility.

  • Emily from Tulsa

    Posted on 1/15/2016

    Can I double up on pre-amps? My receiver has a phono input, so I know I don't need one. But will the sound quality greatly improve with an additional pre-amp (either external or built into the record player)? My receiver is an older Elderbrock MCS 3260. Looking to buy a brand new turntable, as of now I've only used older models. Any recommendations? Leaning towards a Denon. Thanks!

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    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/11/2016

    Hi, Mark. You can definitely use a Sonos system with a turntable to stream music around the house to other networked Sonos players. The two main requirements are: the turntable must have a line-level output connection (that means it has to have either a built-in or separate outboard phono preamp), and there must be a Sonos PLAY:5, CONNECT, or CONNECT:AMP in the system. These three models have the analog stereo input jacks necessary for plugging in the turntable. Now you're ready to rock!

  • Mark Seidl from Upstate NY

    Posted on 1/10/2016

    Hi--can a turntable, like a CD player, be plugged into a Sonos system? If not, is there an easy way to add multiroom capability to a system that includes a turntable? Thanks!

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    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/8/2016

    Hi Jay. Yep, I'm still the designated driver for turntable stuff. Since sound quality is your highest priority, but this is your first turntable rodeo, I'm going to recommend a mid-range setup that you can grow into. First, I would get the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon (DC) turntable. You'll then need Pro-Ject's 78rpm Pulley Set for proper playback speed. (I'm sorry to say we don't sell it, but it's out there.) You'll also need a dedicated cartridge/stylus to play those old shellac 78s. I would recommend the Ortofon 2M 78, which can also be easily mounted on the turntable in place of the Ortofon 2M red that comes with it. (We don't carry it either, but they're easily obtainable.)

    As far as amplification and speakers are concerned, at the very least you'll need a receiver or integrated amplifier with a built-in phono preamp to work with the turntable...or...a receiver or integrated amp that offers line-level input and a separate phono preamp. Separate phono preamps frequently sound better than built-in ones. As far as speakers go, there are many good choices. Please give us a call for suggestions.

  • Jay from Los Angeles

    Posted on 1/8/2016

    Hi Dave, not sure if you're still screening these comments, but wanted to know your suggestions for my first record player. My priority is playing the older 78's and I would like sound quality to be the highest priority. I don't need the bells and whistles of recording onto other devices. Also, since this is my first foray into this realm, I'm not sure exactly which "pieces" I'll need...turntable, pre-amp (if i have an external pre-amp, do I still need a receiver?), speakers. I'd love any advice and model suggestions you might have. Thanks in advance!

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    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 11/23/2015

    Kathryn, As much as I'd love to see you start enjoying vinyl right away, my honest opinion would be to wait and save up your money until you can invest in a turntable that will really do justice to your albums and your music.

  • kathryn

    Posted on 11/20/2015

    I want to invest in a great quality turning table but I want to start off with a -not so- expensive one. What is your opinion on the Crosley cruiser Turntables? Is it decent to purchase?

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    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/25/2015

    Maq, I'm going to assume you have an audio-technica LP120-USB. If that's the case, then your turntable has a built-in phono preamp, so no external device is required. However, to answer your question: Yes, I do think you should use an external phono preamp for your turntable. The simple reason is sound quality. Dedicated external phono preamps almost always sound better (oftentimes VASTLY better) than the ones built into a turntable or even most receivers.

  • Maq

    Posted on 10/23/2015

    Should I use an external phono pre-amp or a receiver for my Technica LP120?

  • David from Huntsville, AL

    Posted on 10/5/2015


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    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/5/2015

    David, I sent your question to our advisors for the best answer. They'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.

  • David from Huntsville, AL

    Posted on 10/3/2015

    What active speakers would you suggest? Looking to buy a turntable for my daughter's room.

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    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/7/2015

    They do exist, but they're kind of pricey. Check it out...

  • AM Ruud from Memphis

    Posted on 9/4/2015

    What about laser pickups instead of needles? There's a lot of old vinyl out there that may not survive a needle used on it now.

  • Charles Westbrook from Houston

    Posted on 8/17/2015

    I have owned a few good turntables while stationed in Germany (during the dark ages) but have progressed to CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray since them. Nostalgia over them is simple just that, not better sounding or clearer music. No matter how well you maintain your records, try to keep dust of them, dust them before use, and even uses expensive click/pop noise reduction hardware/sofware; playback WILL ALWAYS be companied by clicks and pops. The only reason for them is when playing old records not available on CDS. That is the only time I use my ancient artifact call a turntable. Ex. USAF electronics technician who worked on microwave and tropospheric scatter communications, and ground nav-aids equipment during the 60 and 70s.. Also have a degree In computer science and worked in that field for 20+ years. Have always had leading age home audio equipment from the early days of synthetic surround sound, to pro-logic, to AC3+. Never go backwards!

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    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/7/2015

    Carla, we sent your question to our sales team for the best answer. They'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.

  • Carla Lantz from West Chester

    Posted on 8/5/2015

    Thank you for the article. The more I read the more questions I have. I am so glad I have kept my vinyl through the years! I do have a huge collection and plan on letting some go as it is time for me to down size which brings me to my question. Before I sell I want to ensure the playing quality. For the obscure and near mint 45's I will use our Denon turntable, but for the others I am looking for a portable turntable. I am getting on in age and can not stand for long lengths of time to use the Denon or repetitively get up and down to play the 45's. (I have close to 700-800 45's.) I do not want a portable that will harm the grooves/quality. It would be nice if it had USB capability but it isn't imperative. Can you recommend a turntable for me?

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    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/16/2015

    Good thoughts, Jeff. Finding a primo used 'table can certainly be a good way to get into the hobby while saving $$$. The one thing I would caution potential buyers of used turntables to be aware of is, condition. Like any mechanical component with moving parts (think used cars!), turntables are subject to wear and tear. And they tend to be relatively delicate instruments. A used 'table that's had a hard life may require more repairs and refitting (new cartridge, new belt, motor, etc.) than they're worth. Be sure to keep your eyes open and your emotions in check.

  • Jeff Stone from United States

    Posted on 7/15/2015

    Regarding questions about Thorens turntables; yes they are quite nice. Thorens has always offered a good range of turntables from entry-level to very high end, and you can purchase a used Thorens such as the TD-165 for under $200. If you start with a turntable such as the TD-160, there are numerous upgrades available that will bring that 160 into the world of high end audio... and you can make additions one at a time.

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    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/7/2015

    Jose, I hear Thorens 'tables are quite nice. I haven't tried one personally, but people I know think very highly of them.

  • Jose Furtado from Goa, India

    Posted on 7/4/2015

    What about THORENS Turntables? Appreciate to recieve your opinion, advice rtegarding Thorens turntables, which I am given to understand are of a very good and long lasting quality